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Do Tiki Torches Keep Bugs Away?

There’s nothing worse than being bothered by mosquitoes when you’re having a BBQ with family and friends, it drives my wife crazy! So will tiki torches keep them away?

Tiki torches do work in keeping mosquitoes and bugs away, by confusing their sense of smell. As the burning citronella gives off smoke the mosquitoes can’t smell us anymore, but it’s only effective within a radius of about two meters.

Let’s dive down into the topic of tiki torches repelling mosquitoes in more detail, and discover how they work, how good they really are – and what you can use instead that may be more successful…

Do Tiki Torches Attract or Repel Mosquitoes?

Tiki torches repel those pesky mosquitoes. They do this by confusing the bugs’ sense of smell.

Mosquitoes find us by scent. To them, humans are a powerfully attractive blend of lactic acids and carbon dioxide, and that’s how they sniff us out. Tikis work by blocking out our smell.

When the burning citronella gives off smoke, this confuses the mosquitoes, who can no longer smell us. It’s as simple as that – in theory.

How Many Tiki Torches Do I Need to Repel Mosquitoes?

Tiki torches don’t have a large scent range (we’ll look at that in a moment), so in order for them to be effective, you have to sit pretty close to them.

If it’s just you or you and your partner enjoying a quiet sundowner on the porch, one tiki torch should be sufficient. However, if you’re covering a large area or want to protect several people, you’ll need to have a few dotted around. This can actually look really good, especially after dark.

What is the Effective Range of a Tiki Torch?

Now here’s the downside of tiki torches: their effective range is about 2 meters (about six and a half feet). 

This isn’t a great distance, and unless you all want to gather around the torch like it’s a fire pit, or dot them literally next to every seat during a barbecue, not everyone will be protected by the citronella smoke.

It’s also not very pleasant to sit right next to a burning torch. As well as the obvious safety risk, like the mosquito, you’ll end up with a confused sense of smell, as the smoking citronella wafts straight at you.

Can Tiki Torches Be Left Out in the Rain?

Tiki torches can be left out in the rain – within reason. Naturally, a sudden shower of rain will extinguish the flame and put the candle out. However, you still need to protect your tiki torch against rainfall, even when it’s not in use.

As with any candle or oil lamp, a damp wick won’t light properly. Use the snuffer cap to protect the wick when the torch isn’t in use. For the best tiki torch care, extinguish the flame using the snuffer cap, remove the cap to allow the torch to cool properly, then put the cap back over the wick until the next time you light the torch.

So that’s the wick protected: what about the rest of the torch? You don’t want rain mixing in with the citronella oil, so that’s another good reason to make sure they’re covered with the cap. In the winter, you’ll also need to protect the oil from freezing conditions: drain any oil from the torches and store it securely.

What about the rest of the torch? That depends on the material it’s made from. Some woods will go moldy and some metal parts could rust. The traditional tiki torch is made from bamboo, which is susceptible to mold due to its high sugar and starch content.

To keep your tiki torches in tip-top condition, pop them away when they’re not in use. Wait until they’ve cooled, then store them upright in a shed or garage. If you live in a dry climate, they can stay out all summer. Or can they…?

Do Tiki Torches Attract or Repel Mosquitoes?
Do Tiki Torches Attract or Repel Mosquitoes?

Can Tiki Torches Be Left Out in the Sun?

Tiki torches can be left out during the day and they won’t be damaged by the sun. You can still light them to help keep the bugs at bay; however, just be aware that the flames won’t be as visible during daylight, so this can be a safety risk.

During the day, when kids and pets are playing in the yard, or perhaps you’re busy gardening, it’s easy to knock over a tiki torch. Keep them to one side when they’re not needed, to prevent problems like spilt oil or smashed glass. Citronella oil is harmful to plants and grass, and really shouldn’t be ingested by any living creature. 

Do Solar Tiki Torches Repel Bugs?

Solar torches are designed to look like the traditional tiki, but they work in a different way. The solar version is basically a bug zapper dressed up as an attractive torch. They work by attracting the insect then dispatching them.

Effective, yes. Pleasant to sit by? Less so. However, with their flickering faux flames, the torches themselves make an attractive addition. Make sure you place them where their solar panels can collect plenty of sunlight during the day.

Do Citronella Torches Actually Work?

Yes, citronella torches will repel bitey little critters like mosquitoes. However, there is a catch: their effective zone is small (around two meters or about six and a half feet), so a couple of torches are not going to protect the whole family from insects.

This means you have to sit pretty close to the flame and smoke, which some people find just as repellent as the insects do! 

If you don’t mind the smell of citronella, wearing a topical bug-repellent spray is more effective. It’ll keep bugs like mosquitoes away from you, and you’ll be protected wherever you sit or stand. You can still have torches around the patio or deck if you like the look of them.

Summary: Are Tiki Torches Worth It? (for Getting Rid of Mosquitoes)

Are tiki torches worth it? We’ll be honest: they’re not the most effective way of keeping the critters at bay, because their smoke isn’t very far-reaching. Yes, they do work, but only within a two-meter (max) range.

Tiki torches aren’t expensive (and are even cheaper if you buy a multipack), so you may decide it’s worth it anyway. They give off a cozy, flickering light that can really add to the ambience of evening drinks on the deck. If you like the scent of citronella, even better.

If you want to save a few dollars, it’s quick and easy to make your own table-top tiki torches. Here’s how to make a simple tiki torch. This version sits on the table, so you don’t even have the hassle of staking them into the ground or a pot.

However, if your priority is to keep mosquitoes at bay, there are a few more effective things you can do:

  • Wear an insect repellent, either a spray or a roll-on. Like a tiki torch, this masks your natural scent and confuses the bugs
  • Use a fan: they can’t fly in winds (seriously, this can put them off)
  • Make your yard a naturally repellent habitat for mosquitos. Plant herbs that they hate, including citronella, lemon balm, rosemary, basil, and lavender. Lovely for humans and bees, not so good for mosquitoes
  • Don’t let any stagnant water build up. Make sure that your water butt or pond aren’t becoming breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and drain any containers that have accidentally become filled up with rainwater. Mosquitoes need still water to breed: prevent your yard from becoming their nursery by removing sources of stagnant water
  • Wear light-colored clothing. Mosquitos have strong opinions on fashion, and tend to prefer darker shades. Pale clothes and soft furnishings are less attractive (just watch out for the BBQ sauce…)

So in conclusion – tiki torches do work within a few meters to keep bugs at bay, but there are far better ways of deterring mosquitoes from ruining your family BBQ! 🙂

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >